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Benz’s Gourmet: Adding Flavor to Tradition

 

By Lorrie Baumann

As Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern are fond of pointing out to their television audiences, you can learn a lot about a society by tasting its food. Case in point: the Orthodox Jewish community in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. If you find yourself in Crown Heights, or even if you are just wondering about kosher food, Benz’s Food Products will be happy to serve up an education in what it means to be both “kosher” and “gourmet.”

WEB_140225_LT_BenzsGourmet_44Benz’s Gourmet, the brick and mortar shop that is the retail face of the family-owned kosher grocer, opened 11 years ago in Crown Heights, a neighborhood that has since become known as a case study in gentrification. As rising real estate prices have forced middle class families out of Manhattan, they have fled in large numbers to Brooklyn neighborhoods served by an efficient public transportation system that provides easy access to the island. The population shift has generated the concerns and conflicts characteristic of any rapid cultural change.

For Benz’s Gourmet, the changes in the neighborhood have created an opportunity to serve both the neighborhood’s native Orthodox Jewish residents and ex-Manhattanites with gourmet foods that meet the strictest of kosher requirements but also the educated tastes of adventurous eaters. Aside from a few staples that are carried as convenience items, every item in Benz’s Gourmet must pass both tests: it must meet the strictest of kosher standards, and it must be a gourmet product.

WEB_140225_LT_BenzsGourmet_71“If you’re looking for a gourmet dulce de leche that’s strictly kosher, you come to Benz’s. If you’re looking for a kosher goat yogurt, Benz’s carries it. If you’re looking for truffles, Benz’s carries it. We also offer a large assortment of imported cheeses, imported olives and beers. Of course, all strictly kosher,” said Dobi Raskin, the daughter in the family that owns and operates Benz’s. Dobi does some of pretty much everything that has to be done in the store and the wholesale operation that stands behind it. “Just because you’re kosher and Orthodox doesn’t mean you don’t want a truffle mac and cheese. Just because you keep kosher shouldn’t mean that you don’t get to taste the finer things in life.”

The business was started in 1976 by Dobi Raskin’s father, Benz Raskin. Benz is still active in the business along with Dobi’s mother and her three brothers.

Benz started out making classic frozen gefilte fish logs, distinguished from competing products by the high quality of a product made with only fresh fish and fresh produce when other companies were making it with frozen fish. “We started really small, making small batches,” Dobi says. At first, the product was sold only to local families, with Benz delivering it himself in a little red pickup truck. “We’re in Brooklyn, the home of many Orthodox Jews,” Dobi says. “We ourselves are Orthodox Jews.”

As the Benz’s gefilte fish became more popular, Benz started selling it wholesale to institutional buyers serving the Orthodox community. He then began adding more groceries to his product line. Today, the business sells groceries through the Internet as well as in a brick-and-mortar store, and the company’s patriarch has become a mascot for the neighborhood. The shop is only about 20 feet by 100 feet, so it’s not hard to find him when he is there. “Our hearts are bigger than our store,” Dobi says. “He’s sort of an icon. People come in just to say hello to him. He loves it.”

WEB_140225_LT_BenzsGourmet_48Benz started the business because he saw that the people in his neighborhood were becoming more interested in some of the gourmet food products that they were hearing about from the Food Network and other influences. They wanted to try the new specialty foods, but they were not interested in abandoning religious requirements for how food is to be raised, processed and served. “That’s where Benz saw the need,” Dobi says. “It requires a lot more research and care to make sure that the products are up to the kosher standards of the community, since there are many different kosher certifications. If there’s a product with a kosher certification you don’t recognize, you have to do due diligence to make sure that it’s something we can carry … Just because something has a symbol doesn’t mean that it’s going to fly with us.”

Benz’s now carries a wide variety of refrigerated and frozen products, dry products and other specialty groceries, all with the endorsement of rabbinic authorities that it has been produced according to strict kosher law. Dobi does a great deal of the research herself to be sure that each product meets the company’s standards. “It’s quite astonishing how much time it takes to establish that a product is kosher, and if so, under which certification,” she says. “That’s what makes us unique, that we take the time.”

WEB_140225_LT_BenzsGourmet_54When customers ask for an item that’s not in the shop’s stock, Dobi seeks out suppliers who can provide a kosher gourmet product. “If you’re looking for strictly kosher goat yogurt, Benz’s will find it and bring it in. If it’s a popular item, it becomes a regular. We’ll stock it,” she says. “If it’s available on the market, we’ll try to bring it in for you.”

Finding a gourmet item with the proper kosher certification can be a challenge, and Dobi is particularly proud that she was able to find truffle products in response to a customer request. She now gets them from an Israeli company that sources them in Europe, and Benz’s now offers minced truffles, truffle sea salt and even truffle oil. “We were able to bring in the product line. That was a good one,” Dobi says. “You keep the customer happy. They keep you happy. It’s a nice cycle.”

In their eagerness to try new gourmet products, Benz’s customers have not forgotten the traditional foods they grew up with. The company still sells its classic frozen gefilte fish logs and still takes great pride in offering a gourmet product that meets customers’ dietary needs. “The fresh fish and fresh produce that goes into the product put it a step above its competitors, Dobi says. “Just because we eat gefilte fish doesn’t mean it has to taste like cardboard.”

Benz’s also imports trays of herring from Europe and offers them both in the tray and in almost 30 different preparations that combine the herring with ingredients like wasabi, scallions, jalapeños and habanero peppers. Some customers like to buy the herring already prepared, and some like to buy the plain filets and take them home to experiment with new flavor combinations. Either way, Benz’s is ready to serve.

“Our herring filets are probably the best on the market. The quality just can’t be beat. It’s just nice, buttery, good texture,” Dobi says. The herring filets are, like Dobi herself, named after Benz’s mother, so customers come into the shop and ask for Dobis. “I’m pretty famous now, I guess,” she says.

The Dobi case is a popular gathering spot for the community as they come into the store to shop for Sabbath meals, and the various preparations for the herring have become a running topic of discussion among the Orthodox community, where you can often tell which synagogue an individual attended last week by what kind of herring they’re talking about, Dobi says.

“People are expanding their horizons. The market is so vast and there are so many options that people are able to eat a gourmet diet and still adhere to the strict kosher requirements,” says Dobi. “There’s a young community here that’s blossoming that wants the better things in life, and we appreciate that we’re able to offer it to them.”

 

Up-and-Coming Global Cuisines Looking to Capture American Palates

 

Lucas Witman

Until the 1930s, few Americans had ever tasted a taco or burrito, but since then, Mexican cuisine has become a ubiquitous staple in this country. Likewise, before the 1980s, most American diners would have found it appalling to sit down to a plate of raw fish and rice, but today it seems that there is a sushi bar on every urban street corner. And living in a country with 43,000 Chinese restaurants, it can be easy to forget that there was once a time when the cuisine of China was about as foreign to American eaters as the cuisine of Mars.

Throughout American history, palates (and, subsequently, the foods American cooks place on their dinner tables) have constantly evolved. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the effects of immigration, American travel abroad, the careful marketing of global cuisines in this country and the simple transformation of tastes. It is understood that the dishes most popular with one generation are almost certain to be different from those most beloved by the next. With American palates shifting so rapidly, and with the potential rewards for staying on top of the trends so great, many are motivated to shape and predict what will be the next big thing in global cuisine.

Polish cuisine attracting adventurous gourmands

According to the American Community Survey, there are currently almost 10 million Polish Americans living in the United States, making up 3.3 percent of the total population. In Wisconsin and Michigan, over 9 percent of the population is of Polish descent. As the Polish population in this country is burgeoning, so is the importation of goods from Poland. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2010 and 2013, the value of goods imported into this country from Poland increased 65.5 percent.

International travel to Poland is also up (over 12 percent since 2009), and Americans make up the second largest group of visitors to the country after the French. The cuisine of Poland has become one of the draws bringing American tourists to the country. In part due to the success of high end gourmet Polish eateries, such as Warsaw’s Atelier Amaro, the first restaurant in Poland to receive the Michelin rising star award, hungry food tourists are flocking to Eastern Europe to taste indigenous Polish ingredients prepared with 21st century techniques.

According to Tomasz Piszczek, founder of Polish specialty food company Polska Foods, Inc., the increasing popularity of Poland as a destination for food tourists and of Polish food more generally in this country is the result of Polish chefs going back to the country’s pre-communist roots and re-inventing the national cuisine with an eye toward freshness and flavor. “During the communists, the Polish kitchen used a lot of salt, fat and black pepper to increase the flavor. You didn’t have too many spices. It was difficult to get access to traditional ingredients such as cloves, anise, figs, cinnamon, saffron, walnuts, almonds, and nutmeg,” said Piszczek.

Piszczek explained that contemporary chefs specializing in Polish cuisine approach the country’s food traditions in a different way. “The new generation in Poland right now is bringing back their culinary heritage of the past centuries—food with exquisite flavor that was influenced by Italian Queen Bona in the 16th century in Poland, who brought culinary lavishness to the Polish court,” he said. “As the new generation returns to old traditions, and as more people travel to Poland, many are rediscovering Polish cuisine that artfully blends many European flavors into one celebrated dish, setting the record straight for future generations.” According to Piszczek, this modern Polish cuisine features a wide variety of spices, vegetables, seeds and nuts, and this is the Polish cuisine he sees growing in popularity among U.S. eaters.

Malaysian tastemakers looking to capitalize on American love of fusion 

The American love affair with fusion cuisine goes back at least to the 1970s, when increased U.S. trade with Asian countries led to an explosion of American eateries specializing in Japanese or Chinese delicacies, but with a distinctly Western twist. Asian fusion continues to be popular throughout the United States, along with a plethora of other fusion cuisines from Tex-Mex to Louisiana Creole to California cuisine. As Americans continue to go crazy for fusion, another exotic fusion cuisine could be on deck to capture consumer interest in this country: Malaysian cuisine.

For Americans who are often so enamored with the combination of disparate global flavors, ingredients and techniques, the fusion cuisine of Malaysia seems tailor-made for the country’s food-obsessed populace. Malaysian cuisine represents the unique coalescence of Indian, Chinese, Thai, Portuguese, Middle Eastern and native Malay flavors.

“Why do Americans need Malaysian cuisine?” asked Christina Arokiasamy, chef, author and Malaysia’s Food Ambassador to the United States. “America has given Thailand a chance. America has given Japan a chance. America has given India a chance, China a chance, Vietnam a chance. America is a country that is multicultural. America is close to traditions. And Americans are also very innovative. We Malaysians are also very close to our culture, just like Americans. We are very traditional, yet we are so innovative that we can make this kind of food for the American kitchen.”

The most popular Malaysian dishes represent the melting pot that is the company’s eclectic food culture. Hokkien Mee, for example, is a Chinese style noodle dish cooked with crispy cubes of deep fried pork lard. Nasi Kandar is a popular rice dish, seasoned with Thai-inspired curry sauces. Malaysia also offers its own unique take on satay, a dish popular throughout Southern Asia, from India to Indonesia.

With bottled Malaysian sauces, packaged spice pastes and pre-packaged heat-and-serve meals available in many grocery stores, cooks who never before attempted a Malaysian passport meal at home are now beginning to experiment with the exotic flavors of this Southeast Asian kingdom. Meanwhile, those less likely to whip up their own Malaysian feast are experimenting with the flavors of the country at popular restaurants, such as San Francisco’s Banana Leaf, New York’s Nyonya and Las Vegas’ Satay.

Home cooks experimenting with flavors of India

Although Indian food is relatively well established in this country and thus does not necessarily fall into the category of up-and-coming global cuisines in the way Malaysian or Polish food might, the fare of the Indian subcontinent is growing as a mainstream cuisine of choice in this country. According to market research company Mintel, retail and foodservice sales of Indian food have jumped 35 percent in recent years. As a result, more and more home cooks today are experimenting with Indian flavors and ingredients in their own kitchens.

Today many Americans who never before touched a plate of chicken tikka masala, palak paneer or vegetable jalfrezi are carefully dipping their toes into the pool for the first time. This is in part due to the work of gourmet food companies that are attempting to make Indian dishes and flavors more accessible to the average American. Whereas one once had to visit a specialty grocery to pick up the staples necessary for preparing an Indian meal, today the average supermarket offers a selection of Indian ingredients and heat-and-serve dishes.

“It’s getting a little bit easier [to appeal to Americans], because people have become more adventurous in what they want to eat. They want new spice profiles. They want higher spice profiles. And Indian food provides that,” said Mike Ryan, Vice President of Marketing for Deep Foods, a manufacturer of Indian foods.

 

Hammond’s Candies Brings Handcrafted Confections to Hungry Consumers

By Zach Calvello

Hammond’s Candies has come a long way since Carl T. Hammond first founded the company in 1920 after leaving school to apprentice for a local candy maker. Today, Denver-based Hammond’s Candies is one of the best known confectioners in the country, renowned for its outstanding quality and dedication the craft of candy making. The company handcrafts all its confections in open kettles and small batches. All ingredients for its candies are sourced locally, and supplies are purchased from American companies.

HammondsCandies1-RNSince welcoming Andy Schuman to the team as the President and CEO of Hammond’s Candies, the company has seen enormous growth. “When I first started with the company in 2007, we were primarily known as a Christmas confectioner. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to begin branching out,” says Schuman. “I wanted Hammond’s Candies to be known for everyday candies, not just for its holiday ones.”

With this in mind, the company began to expand its horizons in all areas of candy making, sales and distribution. Hammond’s Candies now delivers its candies throughout the nation. The company’s products are primarily found in “mom and pop” shops across the United States, but distribution expands far beyond this. “We are found in larger retailers as well, but because of how our products are crafted, it makes sense that smaller retailers like to carry our products,” said Schuman.

As Hammond’s has increased the scope of its distribution, the company has had to develop a precise distribution plan. To get ready for the holiday season, for example, Hammond’s Candies now prepares nearly a year in advance, ensuring that all orders are met with exceptional veracity.

Social media has been hugely important to Hammond’s as a tool for attracting business. The company regularly updates its Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts. Schuman says, “Pinterest has been a great place to show consumers what they can do with our candies.”

Hammond’s Candies enjoys keeping its social media sites entertaining and exciting, driving recurring visits from followers. Throughout the year, Hammond’s Candies holds polls on its Facebook page in order to get direct feedback from its fans. This is a method that Schumann finds particularly useful in determining new product direction, and he has employed social media in a number of ways, including recently seeking advice about names for his newly adopted dog. “It was exciting to see how many names we received from this poll,” he says. “We were getting names like Butterscotch, Cupcake, Taffy—just all sorts of fun ones.”

HammondsCandies2-RNPlant tours have also been crucial in whetting consumers’ appetites for Hammond’s Candies. The company offers free tours throughout the year and attracts a wide audience. With more than 100,000 people coming through Hammond’s Candies facilities every year, the company has the opportunity to introduce new candies to the public and get immediate feedback. Schuman particularly enjoys these tours, saying, “I want people to see the hard work that goes into our creation process, and it’s an ideal way to see what’s working and what’s not.”

Hammond’s Candies has launched a line of cotton candy that is currently shipping out, and the company is readying its new Whoopie Pie Chocolate Bar for distribution starting in the next few months. 

 

 

 

Maple Run Emporium in Potsdam, N.Y. Reimagines the Classic Sugar House

 

By Lucas Witman

For those living outside the Northeastern United States, it can be difficult to comprehend the importance of maple syrup to the region’s endemic food culture. In this area, sugar houses have operated for centuries, carefully harvesting the sap from sugar maple trees and transforming it into maple syrup, maple cream, granulated maple sugar and maple candy. Today, the products of these sugar houses are more popular than ever, with specialty food companies going out of their way to incorporate maple into their product lines. Keeping track of all of the maple products currently on the market is a formidable task, but maple maven Mary Hilton has made it her business to do just that. And if there is a maple product available anywhere in the United States, you are likely to find it on display at Hilton’s Potsdam, N.Y. shop Maple Run Emporium.

As a retail space, Maple Run Emporium offers a truly unique shopping experience. Not only does the store contain perhaps the largest selection of maple-related food products in the country, but the space also serves as a gallery for local artists, a kitchenware and home design store and a meeting place for area residents and Potsdam visitors. Since the store’s founding in 2010, Hilton has worked hard to create a welcoming retail space that showcases the best of what her region has to offer.

Hilton’s inspiration for the Maple Run Emporium concept originally evolved out of her admiration for the works of American philosophers Helen and Scott Nearing. The Nearings often wrote about harvesting sap and making maple syrup on their farm in Vermont. Hilton was always attracted to their romantic tales of horse-drawn sleighs and Victorian stone gardens. It was Hilton’s desire to experience the world that the Nearings described, combined with her lifelong love of everything maple, that ultimately led her to open the store.

“The shop is a culmination of everything I love. I love cooking. I love gardening. I love everything about the kitchen,” said Hilton. “Boiling sap from my maple trees to make products for the shop was part of the original idea, and now the plan is to do just that right here.”

Maple Run Emporium quickly became a fixture in Potsdam, a small college town in upstate New York with a population that is very in touch with local food culture. “People are really looking to come to a local shop. Everyone wants to come to a college town and go in and out of the quaint little shops,” said Hilton. “And people want to see things that are locally produced. Almost everything I have in the store is pretty much regional.” Today, Maple Run Emporium has become the place to go in Potsdam for those looking to take in the area’s regionally produced consumables and art.

When it comes to the gourmet offerings at Maple Run Emporium, the store offers just about every type of maple product that one could possibly imagine. Popular specialty food brands like Stonewall Kitchen, Robert Rothschild Farm, The French Farm and Gourmet du Village are all represented. The store offers maple-flavored cheeses such as locally produced Maple Cheddar with Bacon from Lowville Producers Dairy Cooperative. There is a vast selection of maple candy, including Chuao Chocolatier’s Maple Bacon Chocolate Bar and sweets from Hutchinson’s Candy, Saratoga Sweets and Das Lolli. The list of maple products goes on and on, encompassing pancake mixes, frozen desserts, meats, spices, teas, coffees, pickles, jellies, nut butters and more.

Of course, no emporium of maple would be complete without an impressive selection of maple syrups, and Hilton’s store is no exception, featuring two bookcases stocked with every variety of the sweet elixir. The shop owner divulged that she does have her own favorites, most notably the two “tonics” from Noble Handcrafted. She praised Tonic 1, a dark syrup aged in bourbon casks that she feels is particularly rich and flavorful. However, she also has a fondness for the company’s Tonic 2, which is infused with Egyptian chamomile and Tahitian vanilla bean.

In addition to the store’s wide specialty food selection, Maple Run Emporium also offers an equally impressive selection of housewares, including Wüsthof knives, Nordic Ware pancake griddles, Emile Henry pizza stones, Le Creuset batter bowls, Mauviel copper crepe pans and All-Clad cookware. The store’s maple wood products are also popular with customers, including Jonathan’s maple utensils and J.K. Adams cutting boards. Shoppers at Maple Run Emporium can also browse for kitchen gadgets, home textiles, bath products and gift items.

In the store’s relatively short lifespan, Hilton has made it a personal priority to turn Maple Run Emporium into an important part of the community. The store participates in many local events like Potsdam’s annual Summer Fest and First Saturday for college students. In addition, various community gatherings are hosted in the store. . “I do events because they are an opportunity to showcase the shop and attract new customers. They keep the shop active and vibrant,” said Hilton.

What ultimately gets customers in the door of Maple Run Emporium, however, is the delicious smell of maple constantly wafting out the front door, as well as Hilton’s contagious personal passion for maple. “I always loved the flavor of maple,” said Hilton. “It is very important to me.”

 

10 Companies Working to Redefine Frozen Desserts for the 21st Century

 

Few desserts are as timeless and quintessentially American as the frosty ice cream cone. However, with specialty food companies today crafting everything from riesling and poached pear sorbet to doppelbock bacon ale ice cream to ice pops infused with kiwi, avocado and spinach puree, it is clear that the world of frozen desserts has gone positively gourmet. Check out these companies putting their unique spins on American classics.

1. Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops. Forget your traditional frozen fruit bar. Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops are made with only three simple ingredients: fruit, water and a touch of organic cane sugar. They are all-natural, free of dairy, fat and gluten, non-GMO and have only 13-15 grams of sugar per serving. At just 60 calories, Chloe’s Pops are guilt-free fun on a stick. 

2. Denali Flavors. Michigan-based Denali Flavors, Inc. is one of the leading inventors and marketers of specialty flavors for the ice cream industry, including its signature flavor: Moose Tracks®. Today, the product line consists of more than 30 flavors, including Caramel Caribou® (toffee ice cream with caramel) and Bear Claw® (dark chocolate with cashews). 

3. Graeter’s. Artisan ice cream company Graeter’s is the only commercial enterprise to make all of its ice creams using a traditional small batch French pot process. The result is an irresistible creaminess. The company’s attention to detail even translates to the packaging process where nearly 20,000 pints are carefully packed by hand each day. 

4. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. The team at sofi Award-winning Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has truly elevated ice cream to an art form. The company’s product line incorporates a slew of unique ingredients, including rosemary, whiskey, lavender, goat cheese, sweet potatoes, cedarwood, cardamom and more. Jeni’s also offers signature sauces, ice cream sandwiches and gravels (crunch condiments). 

5. Ruby Rocket’s. Ruby Rocket’s fruit and vegetable ice pops are a refreshing, all-natural snack. These healthy pops are gluten-free, dairy-free, and non-GMO. With less than 35 calories and 2 grams of sugar per pop, these treats are a healthier and delicious way to satisfy any summertime sweet tooth. Ruby Rocket’s are available in three delicious flavors. 

6. Salt & Straw. Based in Portland, Ore., the team at Salt & Straw pride themselves on supporting their local community and celebrating Oregon in their flavors and ingredients. The company’s unique product line includes one-of-a-kind flavors such as Lumberjack Stack (blueberry pancakes with maple syrup), honey balsamic strawberry with cracked black pepper and Oregon pear with blue cheese. 

7. Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto. Talenti® recently announced the launch of three delicious new gelato flavors that reinvent classic American desserts: caramel apple pie, fudge brownie and raspberries and cream. Talenti’s newest additions to its growing line of gelatos remind us that America’s favorite sweet treats are just as good enjoyed as delicious frozen desserts.

8. TEA•RRIFIC! ICE CREAM. The goal of TEA•RRIFIC! ICE CREAM is to craft the finest all-natural tea-infused ice creams using only the best ingredients sourced locally and from around the globe. The company keeps it simple, while delivering a distinctly delicious ice cream experience that is flavorful, creamy, finishes clean off the palate and leaves you wanting more. 

9. Velvet Ice Cream. Family-owned and operated, Velvet produces more than five million gallons of ice cream every year from its Ohio headquarters. The company celebrates its 100th anniversary on May 1. Velvet honors old fashioned tradition with its classic ice cream products and flavors, such as Buckeye Classic, peach cobbler and Italian spumoni. 

10. Yasso Greek Frozen Yogurt. Made with only natural ingredients, Yasso Greek Frozen Yogurt Bars feature real Greek yogurt, rBST-free milk and natural sweeteners, Yasso is a great low-calorie frozen treat filled with protein and containing little to no fat. Yasso currently offers bars in 11 delicious flavors, and products can be found at major grocery and club stores nationwide.

 

Flash-Frozen Ice Creams Emerge on the Scene as Popularity of Frozen Desserts Continues to Explode Nationwide

By Zach Calvello

Frozen desserts experienced a 28.2 percent increase in sales over the past two years, making this the third-highest category for growth within the larger specialty foods industry. This is according to The State of The Specialty Food Industry, an annual report from the Specialty Food Association. Louise Kramer, Public Relations Director for the Specialty Food Association, attributes this rise in the popularity of frozen desserts to the amount of innovation being displayed by those involved in creating new frozen desserts. “There are many new and interesting products being released in the category of frozen desserts, such as non-dairy desserts, vegetable pops, soy-based products and indulgent desserts,” said Kramer.

SubZero1-DFDJerry Hancock, founder and CEO of Sub Zero, and Scot Rubin, co-founder of Nitropod, not only share in the benefits of this growth within the larger frozen foods industry, but the pair are also both somewhat responsible for the innovative thinking that is stimulating the trend. This is because both Sub Zero and Nitropod make ice cream using a unique, specialized process that involves freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Along with a small, select group of ice cream vanguards, including Iowa-based Blue Sky Creamery, Washington-based Flash Freeze Dreamery, California-based Smitten Ice Cream, Chicago-based iCream Café and a few others, Sub Zero and Nitropod have been working to transform the world of ice cream as we know it.

The process of flash freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogen results in a truly unique product. With a temperature of minus 321 degrees Fahrenheit, liquid nitrogen freezes ice cream mix in less than 15 seconds. Since this flash freezing process happens so quickly, milk molecules stay very small, and ice crystals do not have time to form. This results in the smoothest and creamiest ice cream possible. In addition, the process also preserves more of the natural nutrients in the finished product.

Neither Sub Zero nor Nitropod were the first to use liquid nitrogen to flash freeze ice cream. This honor belongs to culinary pioneer Theodore Gray. “Theodore Gray’s article made the possibilities known. However, our uniqueness lies in our process,” says Hancock. Instead of combining liquid nitrogen and ice cream mix in intervals, Sub Zero combines everything at the same time. This creates what Hancock calls “the lake effect,” allowing Sub Zero to cut each layer of ice cream, one by one, as it freezes.

Nitropod’s Rubin praises flash frozen ice cream for its particularly smooth and creamy consistency. He delivers liquid nitrogen ice cream to his loyal Los Angeles-based customer base in a specialized ice cream truck. Rubin believes liquid nitrogen is an important element that helps him to create a truly premium product, although he argues that it takes a deft touch to ultimately master the frozen dessert. “Liquid Nitrogen is great,” he says. “It makes for smoother and creamier ice cream. But it can’t be the only factor in making great ice cream.” Rubin counts Nitropod’s chef-inspired flavors and ingredients sourced from local artisans as two additional factors compelling his company’s success.

One of the benefits of freezing ice cream on the spot is that each customer has the option of including or excluding every element that makes up the final product. This sort of customization allows ice cream producers to cater individually to each customer’s dietary needs. “It starts with the milk, where we have low-fat, almond and non-dairy choices,” says Hancock. The company even lets customers bring in their own ingredients to add to the mix, making for a fun and individualized ice cream experience.

Rubin looks forward to eventually bringing liquid nitrogen-frozen ice cream to retailers. “Retailing is phase two of [Nitropod’s] plan,” he says. The ice cream entrepreneur thinks he will eventually be able do this without changing his company’s current flash freezing process. “There are those that love to watch the ice cream being made, and then there are those who just love it for the taste,” he says. “Sometimes there is a substantial wait time at Nitropod, so we want to be able to provide for people that just don’t have time for that.”

Still, despite how decadent the final product is, it is the science behind flash frozen ice cream’s production that is often the first thing to draw consumers to sample the product. And it is the science that ultimately inspires the team at Sub Zero to innovate the frozen desserts industry. “Science is the driving force behind our product,” says Hancock.

 Click here for more companies who are blazing new trails in frozen desserts.

Paul Guarino Hired to Head New Fine Wine and Spirits Department for Kings in Ridgewood, N.J.

Guarino cropKings Food Markets announced the hire of Paul Guarino, local executive chef and wine expert, as the Fine Wine and Spirits Manager in the Kings Ridgewood, N.J. store, which has added more than 600 wines, 250 liquors and a variety of local and craft beers to its offering.

In this role, Guarino will oversee the new Fine Wine and Spirits department, which was added to the Ridgewood location as part of an entire store refresh. The store celebrated the department’s grand opening on Friday, May 2.

“Paul is a great addition to our team,” said Judy Spires, President and CEO of Kings Food Markets. “He is going to make Ridgewood’s new wine and spirits department the ultimate destination for our shoppers, providing them with a unique opportunity to not only purchase their favorite specialty cheeses, ‘top of the catch’ seafood, fresh and organic produce, quality meats – as well as all of Kings’ other gourmet food offerings – but also select combinations of fine wines, spirits and local craft beers to pair with that food. Between the new offerings and Paul’s extensive knowledge, our shoppers in Ridgewood will now have the perfect resource for all their entertaining needs, whether that’s just dinner with the family or party for friends and neighbors.”

With over 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, Guarino has extensive knowledge to contribute from a diverse background. Guarino owned and managed the Beverage Barn in Northvale, N.J.  for 10 years and is also a trained chef, having attended the Culinary Institute of America in 1995. He most recently spent 11 years as General Manager and Executive Chef at the Colonial Inn in Norwood, N.J.

MouCo’s Ashley Turns Heads in Madison

MouCo’s Ashley is at it again! On March 20, Fort Collins, Colo’s favorite ash-covered cheese earned a silver medal at the 30th Biennial World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wis. Previously, the Ashley snagged a blue ribbon in the soft-ripened category at the American Cheese Society Conference both in August 2012 and August 2013.

MouCo Cheese Company is owned and operated by Birgit Halbreiter and Robert Poland in Fort Collins. The pair incorporated their company in November of 1999. Back then, their specialty was Camembert—a soft, buttery cheese with a mild nutty flavor. In the last several years, MouCo has introduced four additional varieties of cheese, including the award-winning Ashley in July of 2012. MouCo regulars can’t get enough of this creamy, mildly sweet cheese with its distinctive vegetable ash rind. Ashley’s sweet undertones are best complemented with a salad of bitter greens, a dollop of pepper jelly, or a glass of dry red wine.

Ashley starts the way all MouCo cheeses start: with fresh, local cow’s milk. The cheese curd is gently moved into forms that give the cheese its shape and size. Before the two-week aging process, a mixture of culture and edible vegetable ash is applied to the cheese to aid the development of Ashley’s special rind characteristics. The vegetable ash rind acts like a natural preservative, keeping the cheese extra creamy and mildly sweet. When it’s ready, this natural-rind cheese will be an ashy color with a slight white finish.

The World Championship Cheese Contest was founded in 1957 and is hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. This year, the event drew over 2,000 entries from 22 different countries; the entries were tasted and scored by 50 judges from all around the world. Ashley earned a silver medal in the open soft-ripened category, but she wasn’t the only one turning heads: MouCo’s ColoRouge, and PepBert both placed in the top ten in their respective categories at this year’s contest.

Study Shines Light on Millennials’ Grocery Shopping Patterns

 

A new nationwide study from PLMA for the first time casts significant light on the grocery shopping patterns of the Millennials, the 100 million Americans born between 1980 and 2000.

pullquote boxMillennials represent a multi-trillion dollar marketing opportunity. By 2016, they will become the country’s most powerful consumer bloc and, over time, will become the most economically impactful generation in U.S. history, outspending even the Baby Boomer generation. They already account for $1.3 trillion in overall direct annual spending and it is predicted they will buy $60 billion in consumer packaged goods over the next decade. But little is known of their shopping mindset and grocery retailers have generally ignored them.

Millennials like to describe themselves as unique in their attitudes and how they conduct their lives. While that may well be true in terms of their overwhelming use of smart phones, social networks and the internet, the first wide-ranging study of Millennials who identify themselves as primary grocery shoppers for their household reveals that, when it comes to buying food and non-food necessities, value is the key to their purchasing behavior.

According to the PLMA study, Millennials shop for groceries often and widely, and supermarkets are the most popular choice. Lead factors in what they choose to buy include previous experience with the product, their shopping list and coupons. Seven in ten belong to a loyalty program. In choosing a store or product, they seek out affordability, value and lowest price. They are also regular purchasers of store brands, think highly of the products, and give them high marks vs. national brands.

The PLMA study was conducted by Surveylab, a leading online opinion consultant. It consisted of more than sixty questions aimed at determining what moves Millennials. Completing the survey were nearly 1,600 men and women from 18 to 33 years old who identified themselves as the primary grocery shopper for their household.

Further highlights from the study include:

  • Millennials overwhelmingly see their generation as different from previous ones and are optimistic about their future. But many express resignation about their status. Half say their generation is financially less well off than previous ones and one in five say their life is worse than that of their parents. They expect big changes in the future: Half believe say stores will look nothing like they do now and a third believe many of today’s national brands will no longer be around.

  • Brand loyalty is not a major pull for Millennials. When a national brand they wish to buy is not available at the shelf, four in ten choose the store brand, one third pick a different national brand and one in eight look elsewhere for the national brand they initially wanted.

  • Millennials are universally familiar with store brands and buy them regularly. Almost four in ten said they buy store brands frequently, the highest rate offered in the study. Seventy-one percent said value is the main reason they purchase the store brand product as opposed to the national brand. Product quality improvements and a good prior experience will drive their future store brand purchase.

“Millennials have revolutionized the way we communicate,” says Brian Sharoff, PLMA President. “They have created a world of ‘likes’ and ‘friends’ larger than all television audiences combined. But who are they? For those who run supermarkets, drug chains and mass merchandisers, they are still enigmatic. Hopefully, this study will help clarify how they shop and what they want.”

To request a free copy of PLMA’s new consumer research study, “The Millennials Are Coming,” email research@plma.com

 

Hammond’s Introduces New Cotton Candy

 Hammond’s Candies has taken a legendary fairground and circus treat and made it simple to enjoy anytime. Hammond’s Cotton Candy stays melt-in-your-mouth fresh in the company’s signature, award-winning packaging, making it easy to grab from store shelves. Each package includes three unique, distinct flavors — banana, cherry and blue raspberry – carrying on Hammond’s tradition of applying a modern twist to a nostalgic candy.

“Everyone loves cotton candy and we thought it was about time to make it available without a ticket to the circus,” said Andrew SchumanHammond’s President and CEO. “The flavors are rich and fun and it’s all wrapped up in great-looking packages. We think it’s just the right amount of reinvention of a classic.”

Denver staple since 1920, Hammond’s is renowned for its beautiful, high quality and inventive candies that pay homage to tradition, but wake up taste buds with fun flavors and formulas. Hammond’s Cotton Candy joins a diverse selection of candies that includes the classic Mitchell Sweet (caramel-wrapped marshmallows), award-winners such as the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Chocolate Bar and the company’s signature stunning, hand-pulled lollipops and candy canes. All are available inHammond’s award-winning packaging that showcases the “specialness” of candy. Hammond’s Cotton Candy is packaged in 3-ounce bags (about three paper cones-worth) with a suggested retail price of $1.99 to $2.99.

Hungry for more? Visit Hammond’s in May at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago to try all of Hammond’s new products including not only cotton candy, but new flavors of brittles and chocolates bars, too. More information is available atwww.hammondscandies.com, or by calling 1-800-CANDY-99 (1-800-226-3999).  Follow Hammond’s Candies on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/hammondscandies and now on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/hammondscandies/.

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